Navigating the climate frontier: UMaine and Air Force partner up to weather Arctic storms

By Elías Thorsson - April 24, 2024
photo showing lenticular clouds over the Juneau ice field in southeast Alaska where the UMaine team intends to conduct research for this partnership project
Photo by Erin Towns, University of Maine.

In a groundbreaking collaboration, the University of Maine (UMaine) has teamed up with the Department of the Air Force (DAF) to tackle the rapidly changing Arctic environment. The partnership, spearheaded by UMaine associate professor of glaciology Seth Campbell, aims to enhance the U.S.’s ability to monitor Arctic regions amidst escalating climate change concerns.

The Arctic is experiencing unprecedented changes, with climate change manifesting at an alarming rate. As Campbell points out, “climate change is occurring faster in the Arctic than anyplace on Earth,” highlighting the urgency of the situation. With melting ice opening up once-frozen waters, accessibility and resource exploitation questions loom large, prompting nations, including the U.S., to seek diplomatic solutions to establish rights and sovereignty in the region.

UMaine’s expertise in polar research, demonstrated through programs like the Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP), uniquely positions it for this partnership. Campbell, along with UMaine’s School of Earth and Climate Sciences Director Karl Kreutz, will lead a scientific review evaluating current methodologies and technologies used by the DAF to monitor Arctic weather patterns. This evaluation will include assessing sensors and sensemaking systems AFW crucial for military operations and broader climate monitoring efforts.

A photo of researchers on glaciers in Juneau
Juneau Icefield. (Andrew Opilia, University of Maine)

The collaboration extends beyond research, with plans to integrate UMaine students into the project and reestablish educational agreements for DAF personnel to pursue graduate degrees in environmental sciences at the university. This holistic approach not only enhances the educational experience for students but also strengthens the ties between academia and the military in addressing complex environmental challenges.

Overall, the partnership between UMaine and the DAF represents a proactive step towards understanding and addressing the impacts of climate change in the Arctic. By combining academic expertise with military resources, the collaboration seeks to bolster national security interests while championing environmental stewardship in one of the most critical regions on the planet.